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“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Samsara Karma: Thanksgiving
Our hardness of Heart and the antidote – COMPASSION
“You must make the effort yourself. The Masters only point the way.” The Buddha, The Dhammapada
It is Thanksgiving and, of course, the pedestrian mentality that influences most of us in and through the unconscious mind is hard at work. Holidays are laden with frustration and guilt over the unfilled hopes and desires that often taunt the average human to realize what a mundane life we are, in fact, living. This monotonous mentality about mere survival and the passionate desire for extreme luxury leaves little to no room for anything that would reveal the grace of Love that we all live in with such indifference.
Everything in our lifetime is judged, in our society, by the state of its “outcome.” We are looking for a certain kind of worldly manifestation that will prove that we are “special” or in command of this lifetime. Typically, in the average person, it is money that is the titan of this desperate need for self-importance. There is very little that money cannot buy in our Western culture that is not accrued to the self-worth of a person. We want the “self” of us, which does not exist at all, to be the messiah that does not have to go through the muck and mire of human frailty and find out the real Truth of it all.
Jack was indeed right, “You can’t handle the truth.” (A quote from the movie “A Few Good Men.”) What does this mean with regard to Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is not a day on the calendar of our life. Thanksgiving is a lifestyle. Like forgiveness…it is something that we live in and from moment-to-moment. The Truth is that most of us have not cultivated the Heart enough to really allow Thanksgiving to go beyond a meal on the fourth Thursday in the month of November. We live as if our days and nights are calculated by the whims of the collective unconscious, which designates certain days in our year for celebrations that are to regenerate hope and a desire for a better world. The average person is merely looking for a reason to wash his painful life away, which has been custom-designed through spiritual indifference, DNA, alcohol, entertainment and food.
So the real fact of the matter of holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas is that we just do not have the Heart for these moments, which would allow us to appreciate Thanksgiving and Christmas for what they could truly be. We simply do not feel anything past the human desire for gratification, which we call “love.” The sad aspect of all of this is that the human heart is regarded as the authentic Heart and that all “love” comes from this “heart” and this “heart” alone, through affection and gratification.
Now there is nothing wrong with affection and having some wonderful food, family, friends and entertainment. But when we make these things the compensation for our lack of authentic Love, when we use these things to try to forget our obnoxious pain and unrelenting sorrow that come from living in indifference to authentic Love, a big problem ensues and builds over the course of a lifetime in a way that blurs the meaning and significance of our life.
The manifestation of all of this is that we live depressed or in depression. We live in the anger and fear of not having what makes us feel good or secure emotionally. You see my dear one, the same emotions that pleasure us now turn their demeanors into powerful sensations of insecurity and the fear that we could lose our “pleasures,” which makes all of our human struggles seem worthwhile. The source of many mental disorders such as depression, obsession and compulsion, along with all of the diagnostic disorders that the DSM book provides to set the criteria for health insurance companies, can be traced to one thing! What is that thing?
It is what makes Thanksgiving a mere food orgy and Christmas a sentimental journey into emotional gluttony, which is whitewashed by religious overtones that sanitize our cultural disregard for anything that is authentically spiritual. Every great Master has faced this “thing” in humanity that makes our world what it is today, on the verge of collapse. Jesus was very outspoken about it. Buddha tried to urge us to realize how we have infused our life with it and spoke about how futile living and a lifetime is, by living from it.
Simply put: all of our pain and sorrows are due to our “hardness of heart,” as Jesus put it. I could NOT agree more. The Disciples would come to him and ask “why” this or “why” that and he would give them the same answer over and over again. He would say, “…it is due to your hardness of heart.” He talked about this disregard for the Heart more than any other ailment of humankind.
I have many hardheaded students who suffer from “hardness of heart” and who are actually PROUD of this ill state of emotional mind. Yep! I once had a man who regarded himself as “smart” and he was. He had many issues in his life that would spring up for him to recognize and be transformed by, but he would rather be “right” than loving. He, to this day and after all the shit he has put himself through, along with his wife, will argue and over-talk anyone who disagrees with him about his logical premises that infer that he is “right” and others are wrong.
His life is a huge pain and he has not a humble bone in his body. He reminds me of the racehorse that the Buddha talked about who needs the whip to the marrow of the bone before he is willing to listen. He constantly complains about his “practice,” which does not produce for him any kind of authentication for his mental greatness.
Many of my students are like this. They never, ever consider Love in the equation of their own lives. For “love,” to them, is endless gratification. If they do not have some sort of “sign” of gratification on the horizon of their practice, they believe that they have nothing to be hopeful for and, hence, consider an authentic spiritual practice a waste of time. They want their lives (outer events) changed into a constant stream of pleasures and conveniences while they remain as they are – clueless, selfish and self-absorbed! All of this is a cycle that leads to depression.
There is NO cure for this absolute kind of mindset. We are here as Love. We are here to Love in the face of all that binds us to fear and hatred. Thanksgiving is about a powerful form of surrender into Love that exceeds all logic and reasoning. It is about no longer living in the ties that bind us to the collective unconscious and finding ways to surrender our ugly logic of fear in order to serve humankind through Love. To do this there must be a measure of sincere kindness and compassion within us. We must find ways to be compassionate.
Humility is the only antidote for being an “absolutist.” Everything is trying to teach us the Way into compassion and unconscionable generosity. This is why we have so many problems in our lifetime. We are not unconscionable about anything other than fear and all the rationalizations that we can conjure up in order to sustain our instinct to fall to greed and selfishness. This is the way of our Western culture…and many admire it.
My first story on this Thanksgiving Eve is one that I used to read to my congregation every year at Thanksgiving. It went over like a fart in church. I always felt that when I read this to the masses, most of whom came to be entertained by me at my special Thanksgiving services where I used to spiritually pull rabbits out the hat for them. This is a metaphor for how I would so desperately try to draw their attentions to the meaning of the Heart using gimmicks and props that emphasized my point.
This is a Sufi story that my Master lovingly handed to all of us. To this day I feel tears of gratitude when I share it with my beloved students. A few of them “get it” but, for the most part, they can only “hear” it from the mindset of their personal morality. Its beautiful meaning is lost when heard from the point of view of the uninspired that only want luxury and some sort of trumped up financial security as their panacea to themselves. But it seems to be that it should be delivered each year to you…as a way of realizing whether or not you have matured past your own fears and self-hatreds.
Two men prayed and went their separate ways. One gathered wealth and power…people said he was famous, but there was no peace in him. The other saw the hearts of men glowing as lamps even in the darkness of their own secret fears. He, too, had found richness and power and his wealth, his power, was Love. When simply, kindly, tenderly he touched his fellow man with all the richness and power of this Love, the light within grew clear and bright with courage and with peace.
Both men one day stood before that golden door through which all men must pass to the greater life beyond. The angel in the soul of each asked, “What do you bring with you? What have you to give? (God always asks, “What do you bring with you? What have you to give?” God goes on giving to you, but finally, the last day before you enter into his innermost shrine, he asks, “Now, what have you brought for me? What’s your gift for me?”)
The one who was famous recounted his exploits. Why, there was no end to the people he knew, the places he had been, the things he had done – and the things he had accumulated both physically and mentally.
But the angel answered, “These things are not acceptable. These things that you did, you did for yourself. I see no love in them.” And the famous one sank outside the golden door and wept.
For the first time he could see the whole futility of all his efforts. It was almost like a dream that had passed and his hands were empty. If you are too full of things, one day or other you will see your hands are empty. It was dream stuff that you were carrying in your hands…they have always been empty. You were just dreaming that something is there. Because you were afraid of emptiness, you had projected something you had believed. You have never looked deeply to see whether it is really there or not.
And the famous man sank outside the golden door and wept. He had been too busy to be kind…too occupied to love, too engaged to be himself, too concerned with futile things to be devoted to the essential.
Then the angel in the soul of the other asked, “And what do you bring? What have you to give?”
And he answered, saying, “No one knows my name. They called me the wanderer, the dreamer. I have only a little light in my heart and that which I have, I have shared with the souls of men.”
Then the angel said, “Oh blessed one, you have the greatest gift of all. It is Love. Always and always, there is enough and to spare. Enter.”
Then said the wanderer, “But first let me give the extra measure to my brother, that we may both walk through the door.”
The angel was silent, for in that moment a great light shone around the simple wanderer like a radiant mantle, enveloping both himself and his friend.
The Golden door was opened wide and they walked through it together.
Yes, they walked through it together. Even at the last moment the “Wanderer” was willing to give of his light. This is something that exceeds all human understanding. It can’t be taught…it must be caught through a receptive and humble sense of Being. This is the “poor in spirit” state of Being that Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes. It comes from the practice of breaking the human heart (which is our many emotions) in order to feel the essence of the authentic…the spiritual Heart. It is only in the spiritual Heart that compassion can be realized.
My students and the people around them all want miracles to occur. They want everything that is loving and kind to just “happen” to them, in order to prove to them that Love is greater than hate and that there is something in charge in their lives that is called God. They want a “hall pass” for their painful and self-imposed Karma. They want “proof” of it all in some miraculous way that convinces them that there is only Love. In such foolishness and selfishness there can be no “miracle.” Everything that is Love must be from the Heart…the real Heart.
Therefore the human heart must break before the “hardness of heart” can be released. This is the deep secret to Thanksgiving that I have been trying to get over to people for forty years. I have found that only those who have had enough of their emotional mischief and sorrow, based in ignorance and selfish values (emotions), can realize the power and need for human heartbreak.
It is only when our human heart is broken that we have the chance to move deeply into the spiritual Heart and feel its presence within us. It offers to us a whole new reality and way of living that most people typically do not see much need for. This is why many are “called” but “few have chosen” to understand the Way. The “Wanderer” showed us the essence of selflessness and, hence, authentic compassion…as he gave the “last measure” of his light to a man who did not cultivate anything in this lifetime but selfishness. This looks ludicrous to the human heart. Hence…we suffer so.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE WEEK:
This Thanksgiving, allow for the compassion that breaks the “hardness of heart” that covers the authentic Heart. Be forgiving, be generous and be silent. In these three elements you will find that the emotions that you have nurtured all these years will produce a deep sorrow. Allow for the sorrow and let it be the catalyst for spiritual awakening. Do not take it personally. Just let it all happen the way it needs to happen. Your mind will try to make you afraid and angry. But do not fall for this ploy. Just breathe into your heart chakra and allow the beauty of the pain to take you deeper and deeper into Love.
I know that nothing I have said here sounds gratifying. I also realize that none of you will practice as I have suggested here either. I have been around a long time and I know how people are in this world and at this holiday time. But I am planting seeds…and perhaps one day you will see the validity of all of this and come to that blessed place where you just can’t do what you do anymore. It is in this space that Love is born within us…as us.
“Come and follow…plunge into the incomparable bliss of the spiritual life and abide in it.” Buddha
How do we live in the “spiritual life” that Buddha speaks of? Spiritual bliss is the result of the heartfelt thankfulness that is compassion. Compassion is born within us as we move deeply into the core of how everything manifests in this world. This is more than a mere perception or philosophy. Learning how to shed the pride that comes out of selfishness is a noble effort in this world.
Nothing in our lives means much unless we find the bliss of the spiritual life and learn how to abide in it as the Buddha taught. Most people do not believe in this “bliss”…hence, they live outside the beauty that thrives within us all. Compassion is first born in a profound sense of gratitude. When we can recognize the depth of thankfulness through small moments in our life, we can come to the place where we have realized that everything we do is either moving us toward the compassion that is spiritual bliss or simply hanging us out to dry in our society.
Being thankful, in our culture, is not of much worth to most of us. We see it as an acronym for some emotional convenience that is afforded to someone or that is “deserved” through some form of cultural politeness. But there is far more to it. Our Karma is involved in our kindness…or the lack thereof. My students, in general, simply do not “get it”…nor do many of them want to “get it.” Like many, they have not learned what it means to “abide” in the practice that brings bliss…as the Buddha talked about.
There are two areas that I find most people will NOT deal with when it comes to compassion. The first is in their generosity and the second is in forgiveness. These two principles of Love have become the deepest threat to our “hardness of heart,” hence, they form an acceptable philosophy of reasoning that fear and hate are essential to our survival in this world. Of course, all of this removes us from the blessed state of compassion and creates a Karma that creeps into our lives in so many various ways that it is unintelligible to most of us. I see it all the time with my students and the people that dare to come to me for session work.
Try to hear me…as most teachers will not touch this subject with a ten-foot pole because it does NOT bring in the money. Many a teacher/minister will know the nomenclature to use when trying to give “hope” to people who are trapped in their own Karma and find that they are living hopelessly in a loop of dysfunction. The object of the teacher’s approach is to con the person into somehow believing that they are either not responsible for what has happened or that they will be saved from it in some sort of miraculous way – THEY WON’T.
For instance, I have people who I do session work with who come to me with issues of situational difficulties in their worldly life. Some business deal did not work out, some husband or wife difficulty…or there might be an issue with work. None of the people that I seek to help in these issues have the inner willingness or the spiritual syntax to “come clean” with their life and see what they have done to themselves through cruelty and deep fear. None of them want to see that they have willfully, through fear, greed and ignorance, created their own Karma.
They suffer due to their “hardness of heart” and there is NOTHING I can do to remove this. They do not realize that, through the compassion of a thankful Heart, everything can be revealed and the Karma moved into something far more beautiful. No matter what I say to this kind of person, they are stuck in the loop of a mind set that is absolute in its conviction that fear and hate are necessary in order to change the life conditions.
Many of my students see how I have lived my life in and through many a difficulty and still are not willing to “come and follow me” into the Light through a generous and forgiving state of compassion. They believe I am somehow “special”…I AM NOT!!!!!! I am simply willing. They have a very difficult time thanking me, or anyone else for that matter, beyond the common dictates of society. Getting a sincere “thank you” from them, or anyone else, is a real feat of magic.
Many humans live in the disgrace of the unthankful heart, hence, they do not worry much about the insincerity that comes from “hardness of heart”…and yet, this ugly state of emotional mind is the cause of all of their Karma and the suffering they endure through the course of their lifetime.
This emotional attachment to being unworthy, set in the ways of hoarding hate and fear through money and living unforgiving is a subject that just can’t be approached with people, in general. I find many a person very “set” or absolute in their emotional attachments to fear and hate and they simply will not budge. They truly believe that all of this will “save” them in some way. IT WON’T!
Generosity and forgiveness will not reign supreme in this world. Too many of us have contrived ways for rationalizing our evil. Feeling a victim to someone who was unkind and cruel is a lifestyle for most of us. The emotions of vengeance, revenge and hate are way too gratifying to stand up to the state of compassion and forgiveness.
When I sit down with people to try to help them, I can tell in a moment how far we will go. It is all about their point of view about money and forgiveness. Nothing reveals more the limits of a person than do these signs. If a person is NOT generous to a “fault,” they will not see the need for the state of forgiveness. The opposite is also true. Hence, they will rationalize their spiritual mischief as some righteous moral, due to these “hard-hearted” standards. From here it is all about self-preservation (socially and economically) through “hard-hearted” ideals. They will be too laden with fear and hate to be able to forgive and realize that they as well as all of us…. “know not what we do” as they act and react in the loop of low self esteem.
Here is my closing story. It is about one of my very favorite Zen Masters…Ryokan. He loved children and played with them every chance he got. He is the poster child for compassion and innocence in the Zen world. This story embodies a spirit of compassion that is deeply moving to me. I hope your Heart can reach you as you read this little ditty.
Once Ryokan was invited to his brother’s house. His nephew was misbehaving. Knowing of Ryokan’s saintly quality and his magnificent rapport with children, his brother invited him for dinner.
The sole purpose of his visit was to encourage his nephew to get over whatever it was that was troubling him. The brother had hoped that Ryokan would talk with the boy, straighten him out, fix him.
Ryokan came and had dinner and didn’t say a word to the boy. He went to bed that night and still hadn’t said a word. The brother and his wife were wondering whether Ryokan was going to talk to their son.
When it was time for Ryokan to leave, the boy, acting according to custom in Japan, knelt down and tied the shoes of his uncle. Then he felt something warm and wet on his neck. When he lifted up his head, it was tears falling from the eyes of his uncle.
Not a word was spoken, but from then on the boy changed.
No need to say a word. The compassion of his loving Heart was all that was needed. The boy, being on the innocent wavelength of his uncle…felt what needed to be realized but never spoke it. I am always hoping that my students can, could or would understand this. Well…it never happens. They, like so many, are mechanical and just try to “do what is right” in order NOT to be wrong. How deeply sad it is to have all of this wealth around us and not feel it due to our stubborn insistence on poverty. The dearth of our generosity to give and forgive only makes our living more difficult and our Karma more pronounced.
Ok…I am sure that many of you think this was a “negative” message for Thanksgiving. As one of my ex-wives once said about me, “Living with Gregory is like living in a Retreat 24/7.” I love that one…and it is true. No holiday is absent of my deep desire to not take anything for granted. It is Thanksgiving and it is to be a time where compassion is more important than our “hardness of heart.” Everything we do is important. Thanksgiving is a real opportunity for the chance to know the meaning of the authentic Heart. This is my motive for writing you this. So go and look at this time with some willingness to let it transform you.
Much will happen.
Please forgive me…metta to you,
Swami Chaitanya Siraj
Copyright 2013, Gregory E. Penn. All rights reserved.
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